HGTC survey shows need for brewing jobs as plans for new degree move forward

Horry-Georgetown Technical College’s statewide needs assessment shows there will be at least 250 jobs in the brewing sector over the next three years, information that could pave the way to approval for a proposed brewing degree.

The college plans to offer an Associate in Applied Science with a major in brewing, distillation and fermentation, which would be the first program of its kind in the state, said Marilyn Fore, HGTC senior vice president. A program recommendation is being developed with the assessment results for the S.C. Technical College System Board and the S.C. Commission on Higher Education, which must approve the program before it can be launched in fall 2015.

“Some of those jobs may be part-time, but what’s promising about the results is that as you look at the numbers in years one, two and three — 2014, 2015 and 2016 — it increases every year, and that’s a good sign,” Fore said.

The survey tries to capture the whole field of possible employers in the state and to find out job titles and the skills that must be mastered for each position, Fore said. The college’s response rate was about 25 percent of employers contacted, but she said they are never satisfied until they reach 40 percent of employers.

Fore said HGTC has not contacted Stone Brewing Co., a California-based company that has plans to build an East Coast brewery. Legislation has been proposed that would allow the company to sell its beer at a bistro adjoining its brewery, and the company is being courted by several cities, including Myrtle Beach.

Thomas Lucas of The Homebrewer’s Pantry in Conway said establishing a brewing degree program at HGTC will be an incredibly popular option for students, who will be able to start higher on the job ladder after graduation rather than as an intern, which has traditionally been the case. He said it also will help put the area on the map as a destination for “beer people.”

“It is just so major with what’s happening in the beer community in South Carolina,” Lucas said. “If we can get the Stone bill passed, that could open up so many job possibilities, but the simple fact that it’s all happening at the same time is just great for the community.”

The brewing degree will fall under HGTC’s culinary department and feature an internship with hands-on applications at a brewery or distribution center in this area. It is modeled after brewing programs already offered at three technical colleges in North Carolina, and Fore said she will be contacting Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., about a transfer agreement, as the school has a four-year degree in a related field of study.

Preliminary talks also have begun with Coastal Carolina University about a possible transfer agreement, Fore said, something the schools have in place for a number of programs.

CCU Provost Ralph Byington said the thought is that students who finish an associate’s degree in brewing at HGTC could transfer to CCU and earn a marketing degree from the Wall College of Business Administration. He said an advanced degree opens up other opportunities, especially for an entrepreneur who may start a microbrewery and need to market it.

“We’re not going to be brewing beer on this campus, but I do see the benefit of getting a marketing degree,” Byington said. “These students are right here, and our advisers can let them know what they can do and help set their career paths.”